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Do you remember pulling teen pranks? Perhaps you and your friends egged houses or spray painted the school parking lot. Such stunts seem like mere mischief, but actions like these can bring vandalism charges in San Diego County, California.

If you’ve been charged with vandalism, you need a skilled California criminal defense attorney. At the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, our skilled attorneys will attempt to get your vandalism charges reduced or dismissed.

Contact us right away to schedule a consultation regarding your vandalism defense. If you would like more information on vandalism convictions in San Diego County, keep reading.

Elements of a Vandalism Charge: What the Prosecutor Must Prove

The elements of vandalism seem simple, but they can come with harsh penalties. California law defines vandalism as maliciously committing these acts:

  • Defacing with graffiti or other inscribed material,
  • Damaging property, or
  • Destroying property.

The law defines graffiti or inscribed material as “any unauthorized inscription, word, figure, mark, or design that is written, marked, etched, scratched, drawn, or painted on real or personal property.”

To be convicted of vandalism, the offender must not own or have the owner’s permission to deface, damage, or destroy the property. The prosecution must prove each of these elements to convict you of vandalism. Meanwhile, your defense attorney will try to poke holes in the prosecution’s case by asserting all available defenses to the vandalism charge.

What You Need to Know About Vandalism Charges in San Diego County

You may find yourself facing a vandalism charge without even knowing that you exhibited criminal behavior. For instance, these scenarios may be considered vandalism in California:

  • Throwing an object at your spouse and watching it shatter on the floor,
  • Carving your initials into a park bench,
  • Throwing eggs at a neighbor’s house, or
  • Spray painting an abandoned railway car.

California law also includes some interesting repercussions for vandalism offenders. In the above example, you could be charged with domestic violence along with vandalism when throwing an object at your spouse. Vandalism charges can even be upgraded to a felony iif the property damage was more than $400.

These may seem like frightening consequences for what seemed a trivial action. California courts take vandalism charges seriously, but you don’t have to resign yourself to time in jail and a felony criminal record.

An experienced San Diego County criminal defense attorney can try to get your vandalism charges reduced or dismissed. Immediately after a vandalism charge, you should contact a skilled attorney who will fight for your rights.

Penal Code section 594: Misdemeanor Vandalism (less than $400)

Under California law, when a vandalism offender causes less than $400 of property damage, the crime is a misdemeanor. This charge brings a penalty of:

  • Up to a year in county jail, 
  • Up to a $1,000 fine,
  • Restitution (repairing the damaged property),
  • Up to a year of community service, and
  • Counseling.

If the offender has a previous conviction for vandalism, the penalty can increase to a year in jail and a fine of $5,000.

Penal Code section 594:  Felony Vandalism ($400 or more)

If the property damage is $400 or more, the crime can be charged as felony vandalism. Felony vandalism convictions in this category are punishable by:

  • Up to three years in prison (served via “local prison); 
  • Up to a $10,000 fine,
  • Restitution (repairing the damaged property),
  • Up to a year of community service, and
  • Counseling.

If the offender caused more than $10,000 in property damage, then the vandalism fine can go up to $50,000.

Get Help from a California Vandalism Criminal Defense Attorney

You may be worried about a vandalism charge. However, a vandalism charge doesn’t always result in a vandalism conviction. When you hire a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney, you increase your chances of getting your vandalism charges reduced or dismissed.

Contact the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, for a consultation. Our award-winning attorneys have represented criminal defendants in more than 100 jury trials, securing many acquittals in a variety of cases, including vandalism cases.

We offer passionate advocacy, emotional support, and confidentiality while we help you navigate the court system. Contact us today to start your defense against vandalism charges.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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